Gossum and Heck sweep while Unzicker wins after late arrival, Hamilton gets redemption
Lincoln Speedway saw a display of dominance in Saturday night’s DIRTcar Fall Nationals finale by some of DIRTcar’s brightest stars and up-and-coming weekly racers.
Five divisions took to the quarter-mile oval in search of a coveted Fall Nationals trophy. Dodging the rain all day, the show ran uninterrupted and treated those watching in-person or on DIRTVision presented by Drydene to a show that exhibited the division’s best drivers in attendance in Victory Lane.
DIRTcar Late Models – Ryan Unzicker
When his original Saturday night racing plans were washed out in the afternoon, Ryan Unzicker and his team decided to make the two-hour and thirty-minute truck south to Lincoln Speedway. And it paid off nicely.
Unzicker arrived just in time to tag the tail of the final DIRTcar Late Model Heat Race and hit the track without any Hot Lap/Qualifying time. In just six laps, he drove his RJR Transportation Co. #24 to the lead and the eventual win, placing him on the front row for the 25-lap Feature.
At the drop of the green, Unzicker sped away from the field and ran away with it, leading every lap in a flawless performance to pick up the $3,000 check.
“Believe it or not, this is where I got my very first Super Late Model win,” Unzicker said. “I think this is number 104 or 105 for our team. I’m just happy to be here and put on a good show for the fans.”
Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 24-Ryan Unzicker; 2. 2-Mike Chasteen Jr; 3. 6P-Jose Parga; 4. 38J-Jake Little; 5. 77-Blaise Baker; 6. 84- Myles Moos; 7. 32M-Cody Maguire; 8. 27-Greg Kimmons; 9. 27S-Colby Sheppard; 10. 134-Chuck Mitchell; 11. 9Z-Jayme Zider; 12. 11M-Ryan Miller; 13. 33H-Roben Huffman; 14. 5B-Brandon Sweitzer; 15. 12-Steve Fairbanks; 16. 20-Dustin Ingram; 17. 48T-Phil Taylor; 18. 7Z-Michael Maestas
UMP Modified – Hunt Gossum
Make it back-to-back UMP Modified Fall Nationals Feature wins for teenage Modified sensation Hunt Gossum.
The 16-year-old from Mayfield, KY, added a tenth victory on the season Saturday night, leading all 25 laps en route to a $1,500 payday. Rolling his Elite Chassis #99 right through the middle of the racetrack, Gossum put on a clinic, running away from veterans Mike Harrison, Kenny Wallace and young hot-shoe Brandon Bollinger.
For his car’s ability, he credits his well-known UMP Modified chassis builder and DIRTcar national champion.
“This car could not have been better. I felt like Nick Hoffman out there tonight. Rode through the middle,” Gossum said.
Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 99-Hunt Gossum; 2. 242-Brandon Bollinger; 3. 24H-Mike Harrison; 4. 36-Kenny Wallace; 5. 777-Trevor Neville; 6. 05-Dave Wietholder; 7. 14C-Rick Conoyer; 8. 1F-Evan Fink; 9. 35-Brandon Roberts; 10. 66-Jake Griffin; 11. 14-Brian Lynn; 12. 14K-Shane Kelley; 13. 12-Briana Sheppard; 14. M41-Steve Maisel; 15. 52- Billy Knebel; 16. (DNS) 6-Troy Carter; 17. (DNS) 24S-Jacob Steinkoenig
Pro Late Models – Aaron Heck
DIRTcar’s Pro Late Model division is home to some of the nation’s most fierce and passionate competitors in dirt track racing. Among those is the 2019 national champion Aaron Heck, who has not been shy about his desire to finally capture a Fall Nationals trophy. This Friday and Saturday, he won two, in one big sweep of the weekend.
“If you would’ve told me I’d come here and win two Fall Nationals after leading these things for 15 years or so, I’d have called you a liar,” Heck told DIRTVision pit reporter Georgia Henneberry in Victory Lane.
Saturday night, he did it in dominating fashion, leading all 20 laps for the $1,000 victory. However, he nearly lost it when disaster struck right in front of him.
Heck was headed full-bore down the backstretch on Lap 18 with rival Jose Parga right on his heels, when two slower cars ahead of him came together in Turns 3-4. This caused a chain-reaction of several more cars spinning into the accident in attempts to avoid. Heck and Parga slammed on the brakes and were able to sneak past the incident without making contact.
During the cleanup, Heck knew the pressure from Parga would be fierce on the restart, but he kept it cool and drove it to victory.
“I knew Jose was back there, so I just wanted to hit my marks for the next three laps, and we did,” Heck said. “The right-rear was kinda giving up there, so I kinda put my entry a little bit lower than I was earlier on in the Feature.”
Feature (20 Laps) – 1. 59-Aaron Heck; 2. 6P-Jose Parga; 3. 01-Billy Knippenberg; 4. 134-Chuck Mitchell; 5. 33H-Roben Huffman; 6. 11-Ryan Miller; 7. 27-Colby Sheppard; 8. 32M-Cody Maguire; 9. 55-Rockett Bennett; 10. 34-Eric Doran; 11. 7Z-Michael Maestas; 12. 5B-Brandon Sweitzer; 13. 77-Blaise Baker; 14. (DNS) 11E-Brandon Eskew
Pro Modified – Ryan Hamilton
Ryan Hamilton’s drive to victory Saturday night was a story of perseverance. One night after starting on the pole and falling two spots short of a win, the young gun used his resources and came back for redemption on Saturday.
He got that redemption in the final DIRTcar Pro Modified Feature of the regular season, running away from Brian Vinson and BJ Deal to lead all 20 laps and collect a $750 top prize.
His biggest resources came right within the minds of drivers he both looks up to and races with.
“I’ve got to thank Mike Harrison; I spent a lot of time talking to him today about different adjustments to make,” Hamilton said. “Owen [Steinkoenig] – he helped me today, too. Me and him have been racing together all year. He’s the national champion this year, and he and I are pretty good buddies.”
But this was not another caution-free runaway. Hamilton was forced to sit and think about what lay ahead of him under a red flag period for a cleanup from an accident in Turn 1 on Lap 8.
When he hit the throttle for the restart, it appeared he was unshaken by the situation, as he led the field back around to the checkers to collect his first Fall Nationals trophy.
Feature (20 Laps) – 1. 58R-Ryan Hamilton; 2. 3-Brian Vinson; 3. 3W-BJ Deal; 4. 5-Owen Steinkoenig; 5. 121-Deece Schwartz; 6. 74-James Hileman; 7. 15G-Rick Conoyer; 8. 215-Jake Montgomery; 9. 14G-Tommy Gaither; 10. 52-Billy Knebel; 11. 32-Langdon King; 12. 8UP-Ethan Orman; 13. 81-Garrett Schumacher; 14. 28-Justin Durbin; 15. 27X-Kyle Helmick; 16. 116-Kevin Rench; 17. 24M-Matt Milner; 18. BK3-Billy Knippenberg III; 19. 88- Zayden Bolyard; 20. 29-Josh Orman; 21. 4-William Lowe; 22. 66K-Kaleb Stephens; 23. 22K-Michael Kettler; 24. 15C-Kevin Crowder; 25. 14N-Nathan Lynch; 26. 14E-Evan Lynch
Sport Compact – Nick Johnson
Up until the fifth and final Feature rolled to the track Saturday night, there had not been one lead change in any Feature contested all evening. The Sport Compact division changed all that.
Nick Johnson hounded the rear bumper of Allan Harris for each of the opening nine laps, and even attempted a few passes on him in the early going. But when the white flag waved, Johnson knew it was time to go for real.
He dove underneath Harris into Turn 1 and drag raced him down the backstretch. The two remained close at the stripe, but Johnson nosed ahead and took the win by just over three-tenths of a second. Last-lap pass complete, Fall Nationals trophy claimed.
“Allan and I put on a good race; we’ve been racing this hard all year,” Johnson said. “It was a great track – this is second time we’ve picked up a win here this year.”
Feature (10 Laps) – 1. 30J-Nick Johnson; 2. 3H-Allan Harris; 3. 04B-Brandy Burgett; 4. 1-Cook Crawford; 5. (DNS) 40-Adam Webb